As part of National Workforce Development Month, the Utah Dept. of Workforce Services and the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) have announced a partnership to better connect Utah students who earn career and technical education (CTE) Career Skills Certificates to opportunities in the workforce.
“Last year, more than 130,000 Utah students took over 286,000 CTE Career Skills Certifications and earned more than 121,000 credentials in classes ranging from Advanced Computer Programming to Welding Technician,” said State Director of Career and Technical Education Thalea Longhurst. “In a strong and growing economy, students with these advanced certifications add value to the workforce based on the individual’s knowledge, skills and aptitudes gained throughout their program of study and we want to help them connect to the right opportunities as they make future college and career decisions.”
This new partnership aligns two very successful and long-standing programs to benefit students and employers alike. One of the first in the nation, Workforce Services developed its own integrated case management and labor exchange system located on jobs.utah.gov. The system works to connect job seekers with employers utilizing a number of support tools and resources available online and in employment centers. The USBE CTE Career Skills Certificate program has likewise been embedded in Utah high schools for over two decades, and administered through a third-party partnership with Precision Exams, the Utah-based company that works with USBE to provide third-party certification of the skills obtained by students in their CTE courses. These certificates validate the job-ready skills earned in over 200 course offerings across 15 nationally recognized career clusters like information technology, manufacturing, health science, construction trades, business and accounting.
Certificates earned by students represent job-ready skills, and employers can list the credentials they seek, helping students more easily identify and apply for the available positions. Participating employers then provide candidates who have earned these credentials in their high school programs with a preferred status in the interview process, with some employers even offering a higher starting wage to those that possess specific certificates.
“As strong as the Utah economy is today, there are still thousands of unfilled jobs that businesses are looking to fill if they can find people with the right skillset,” said Jon Pierpont, Workforce Services executive director. “We know there are students who have already earned certifications that make them attractive to employers. A strong connection between workforce development and education will benefit us all and grow our state’s economy.”
Utah businesses are also encouraged to evaluate the standard sets in each CTE course to ensure the skills being taught in classrooms align with the needs of employers.
“The fact that we can give our input on the skills we are really looking for helps students prepare to be a part of our team and help us make smart hiring decisions,” said Jake Goodlife, Northern Utah Vice President of Staker Parson Companies. “When a new hire has already shown interest in and an aptitude for the type of work he or she will do on the job, and has been taught a skill we are looking for, we know that employee is likely to thrive and contribute to our industry’s overall success.”
Both Workforce Services and USBE have specialists already working closely with each school district. The key to this partnership is utilizing those professionals to help teachers, students and parents to become more familiar with the benefits of earning certifications and showcasing them to employers as they utilize the labor exchange on jobs.utah.gov.
“We all want what is best for our students and helping them see how the skills they are learning translates into a career is critical,” said Edson Barton, CEO of Precision Exams. “CTE certifications make students more attractive to potential employers after they graduate high school. Likewise, a better understanding of the specific skill sets businesses value can help students make decisions as they continue to higher education with an eye on the professional opportunities down the road.”